The Schengen group of European Union countries–France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy–decided yesterday to introduce visa-free travel in relation to the Baltic states. The Executive Committee of the Schengen group approved the measure on a German initiative during yesterday’s meeting in Berlin. Effective March 1, 1999, citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be able to enter the Schengen countries and stay there for up to three months without entry visas. Schengen countries’ citizens will enjoy the same treatment in the Baltic states (DPA, December 16). Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had long sought the lifting of visa requirements for their citizens traveling to Western Europe. The exemption has economic, political and symbolic significance. The timing of the decision turns it into a consolation prize of sorts in the wake of the European Union’s Vienna summit, which marked a slowdown to the process of admitting the Baltic states as members (see the Monitor, December 15).
UKRAINIAN PLANE DOWNED IN WAR-TORN ANGOLA.